Dear reader,

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a holy experience.

What did you picture?

Was it a transcendent mystical moment on a sacred day like Yom Kippur? Was it a spiritual, out-of-body experience? Was it at some hallowed place, like at the Western Wall or on a scenic mountain far away from civilization?

Judaism’s holiest site was the Temple. That’s where the Divine Presence was visibly felt, where heaven and earth kissed. And yet, surprisingly, many of the miracles that took place in the Temple mirrored the miracles that took place centuries before that—in a simple hut that was the humble home of the first Jewish couple.

“Throughout Sarah’s life, three miracles took place in her home: a protective cloud hovered over the entrance to her tent, a blessing was present in her dough, and her candles would burn from one Shabbat to the next.” (Bereishit Rabbah 60:16)

These three special miracles in Sarah’s (as well as in Rebecca’s) home represent the three special mitzvot of the Jewish woman. These miracles were later paralleled in the Temple. Sara’s Shabbat candles resembled the candles of the menorah that burned until the next day’s lighting. Sarah’s challah was blessed just like the lechem ha-panim, the showbreads of the Temple. The cloud of the Divine Presence over Sarah’s tent, like the Shechinah in the Holy Temple, affirmed the greatness within.

Now, think of a city with a thriving Jewish community. Does it have a large and beautiful synagogue?

For most of us, the shul is the center of Jewish life. It’s where we gather to pray, celebrate and study. However, in Jewish law, constructing a mikvah takes precedence over building a shul. The mikvah is a private, much less known place where a woman immerses in a ritual pool in order to resume regular marital relations with her husband. Both a synagogue and a Torah scroll, Judaism’s most venerated treasures, may be sold to raise funds to build a mikvah.

Because in Judaism, holiness is expressed in elevating our regular day-to-day experiences.

Sarah demonstrated that a Jewish home can in some ways be superior even to the Temple, for the Temple was built to emulate her home, rather than the reverse. We value marriage, the home, and peace between husband and wife even more than the most glorified spiritual highs.

Holiness is accessible to each of us. It’s in the angry words we withhold, in the dark moods we overcome and in the challenges that we tackle. It’s in our successes and, perhaps even more, in learning from our failures. It’s in the nourishing food we cook, in the joy we generate, in the encouragement we share and in the love we create.

So, how will you experience holiness today?

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW